Legal Brief: 2020 in Review

By Laura Cruz, Legal Editor

Editor’s Note: In our final installment for 2020, the legal team revisits our coverage over the past year.

We began the year by focusing on efforts by the White House, Justice Department and other federal entities to counter graft and bribery in Venezuela and across Latin America.

In the 11th installment of the series, published in February, we examined the rise of money laundering through video games, an increasingly popular vehicle for hiding illicit proceeds because of their accessibility and potential anonymity.

In March, we turned our sights towards the utilization of digital ID systems for customer due-diligence purposes, and related guidance from the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, to help governments and financial institutions determine whether they can rely on such technology.

As much of the world began locking down amid the spread of COVID-19, we covered how financial institutions, regulators and others had responded to a corresponding spike in fraud and other financial crimes, as well as the conflict between U.S. sanctions and global attempts to bolster Iran’s efforts to counter the pandemic.

We then revisited the emergence of financial technology, and the growing interest of central banks in developing their own cryptocurrencies and other forms of digital payment.

In July, we analyzed the 1MDB corruption and money laundering scandal from a legal perspective, reviewing the U.S. Justice Department’s use of criminal charges and civil forfeiture actions to recover hundreds of millions of dollars that had been stolen from the sovereign wealth fund and transferred to corporate bank accounts across the world.

Corruption took center stage again in August, as we analyzed criminals and corrupt politicians’ continued exploitation of professional soccer in Europe and elsewhere to generate and mask illicit proceeds in the five years after the Justice Department charged high-ranking FIFA officials with bribery, money laundering and racketeering for their roles in a litany of violations.

In August, we examined Malta’s efforts to avoid FATF’s gray list of countries with strategic anti-money laundering deficiencies in the months after the global group found shortcomings in the island’s measures and ability to investigate graft, trace and seize illicit assets, levy penalties in response to violations, and prioritize and properly resource risk-based supervision.

The news of the day again dominated our coverage in October, as we reviewed the regulatory and global financial community’s response to the FinCEN Files, a series of news stories based on thousands of suspicious activity reports leaked from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

As we head towards a new year, new Congress and new legislative priorities, our most recent Legal Brief, published in November, reviewed various bills that would update the Bank Secrecy Act and related regulations.

Several provisions from those bills were folded into the National Defense Authorization Act, which federal lawmakers overwhelmingly approved in December

Contact Laura Cruz at

Topics : Anti-money laundering , Sanctions , Know Your Customer , Cryptocurrencies , Info. Security/Cybercrime
Source: U.S.: FinCEN , Malta , U.S.: Congress , FATF , Switzerland , Malaysia
Document Date: December 15, 2020